In 2022, the buzz surrounding Dan Levy’s directorial debut film sparked curiosity, initially labeled as a rom-com by some press outlets. However, as the Schitt’s Creek creator points out, “Good Grief” is anything but that.
A Dramedy in the Making
It’s humorous today for the Schitt’s Creek creator to remember that several news outlets first referred to Dan Levy’s 2022 feature picture directing debut as a rom-com. The project that would eventually become Good Grief is, as he puts it, “absolutely not” that.
“In the early days when that idea was coming to fruition, it was originally conceived potentially as a romantic comedy, and then whatever press got outset what is now a very strange description of the movie,” he tells EW via phone from his residence in the capital. “I see the movie as a drama or a dramedy.”
A Personal Catalyst
He acknowledges that since the concept for Good Grief initially occurred to him, a lot has changed. Following Schitt’s Creek, Levy knew exactly where he wanted to go next, having won four Emmy Awards and established himself as one of Canada’s most well-known figures.
“Having written 80 episodes about an actual family, I felt compelled to tell a story about found family and the importance of it,” according to him. Then, the COVID-19 epidemic seemed like it had permanently altered him, as it did much of the globe at the time.
Marc’s Journey: Navigating Loss and Friendship
“I lost my grandmother toward the tail end of the pandemic, and I was in a very strange headspace in terms of feeling the weight and the profound sense of the tragedy of what the COVID pandemic had done for all of us, while at the same time trying to honor the passing of someone who meant so much to me,” says Levy, who lost his dog as well in close proximity.
“It was difficult for me to experience the uniqueness of loss after spending so much time experiencing just pain. That discussion was what truly accelerated the movie’s premise.”
Behind the Scenes: Crafting Authentic Connections
Good Grief, written and directed by Levy, stars Marc, a former painter turned children’s book illustrator who is happy with his life in London despite being frequently eclipsed by his flamboyant and charming husband Oliver (Luke Evans), a writer whose books have been made into a hugely successful international film franchise.
Oliver passes away on the night of the couple’s yearly Christmas party, changing everything forever. Hard facts emerge as Marc struggles to cope with the catastrophe, forcing him to fly to Paris with his two best friends, the outgoing Sophie (Ruth Negga) and the more reticent Thomas (Himesh Patel).
Arnaud Valois portrays Theo, a guy Marc meets one evening at an art gallery soirée and who reassures him that life goes on despite loss. Celia Imrie also makes an appearance as Marc’s lawyer, Imelda.
Levy felt that it was crucial to make the sexual connections in Good Grief secondary, allowing the friendships to be the main focus. “I feel like the older we get, the more profound our relationships are with our friends and the more complicated they get,” he says.
Those closest to us are sometimes the ones we most readily excuse from difficult talks about life, negative habits, and behavior patterns that could be slightly adjusted. Although it’s a difficult subject to have, these connections do have a closeness.”
Levy has experienced it in his own relationships, and Negga and Patel’s portrayals of it on screen add to its profundity. Sophie, according to Levy, was born with “this intrinsically magnetic and charming ball of energy,” as the Preacher and Passing actress put it.
Then there was Thomas, who Levy notes had he been a one-note character from Eeyore, but instead he brought “a sensitivity and warmth and softness and nuance to his choices.”
Before shooting in London, which Levy has said saved his life when he left a toxic relationship in his 20s, the three of them practiced together for two weeks. “Every day, they would visit my home. Levy says of his performers, “We would share stories about ourselves and talk about life and loss and love.” It was a huge comfort when Ruth and Himesh joined the tale, since it was necessary for the viewers to comprehend the depth, complexity, and love shared by these three individuals. I was aware that these friends’ realities would surface.”
Akin Yet Different: “Good Grief” and Schitt’s Creek
Has Levy’s personal understanding of loss changed as a result of creating Good Grief? “When I went into it, I was still processing a lot,” he claims. “It’s not that we ever truly get over a loss, but is my grieving appropriate?
Have I fulfilled my obligations? I do believe that by creating this film, I have paid tribute to the pain I had at the time and that doing so was the only way for me to acknowledge the emotions I experienced at the deaths of my dog and grandma. Writing might occasionally be the best way to process grief and find catharsis.”
Good Grief has a comparable vibe to Schitt’s Creek, even if it comes from a fundamentally different place. “In so many ways, I feel like they both share a level of uncomfortable honesty,” he says.
“In the hopes that they might be relatable, I had to reach out to the most vulnerable aspects of both my relationships and myself. Even if Good Grief has a totally different tone, I believe that honesty and the desire to reassure individuals that everything will be well still exist.”
On January 5, Good Grief will be available on Netflix.